Like many folks, I struggle with an all or nothing attitude. If I decide to do something, I often go full force ahead, and it’s either an epic win or a dramatic fail. Combine this with my anxiety, and it often means that I choose to not do things, rather than risk the failure.
I teach knitting to folks, and in my classes I focus on creating an environment that is safe for failure. Learning new tasks lends its self to lots of failure, as people are rarely masters at a task the first time they try it. As children, we expect to need to LEARN a task. I find that children expect to not be good at something when we start, and as we practice we get better and better. Kids do things for the joy of doing them, rather than the experience of instant mastery. Think about a five year old finger painting – that kid is not thinking that the blobs of paint are ACTUALLY what a tree and flowers look like, but they sure enjoyed smushing their hands in the paint and that’s what it FEELS it looks like. The kid is not expecting their piece to come out looking like a Van Gogh. The process of creating that painting brought them joy, and as such, the end result brings them joy too.
With my knitters, when I give them permission to fail, to know ahead of time their project is not going to be perfect by any means, and to enjoy the experience of learning to knit (and this takes a lot of reminders that it’s ok to suck at something), they are so happy with what they have created at the end – no matter how full of holes and mistakes it is – because they were able to experience the joy of learning without the fear of failure.
Somewhere in between being five with finger-paints and adults with jobs, we forget the joy of learning, and instead focus just on the end result. Which means we stop trying new things, because we know the end result is not going to be perfect. Even though I teach other people to allow themselves to not do everything perfectly, I don’t give myself the same permission.
I’ve realized the act of taking the time to enjoy a process is mindfulness. It’s about learning that stitch in that moment, not worrying about what your end result is going to be. I also don’t need to jump into mindfulness full force – I can choose times to be mindful (…. As I type this, I realize it’s being mindful about being mindful….). As this is a yoga blog, it would make sense to work on mindfulness in my yoga practice. Wish me luck on this venture.
Mindfulness For the Full-Minded is an ongoing exploration by Kat Gordon. She invites you to follow her journey toward mindfulness here.